Shantaram - Gregory David Roberts This is my happy dance:

as I finally, finally finished this one after a whole month of struggling and avoiding my iPod so I wouldn’t have to listen to one more Linbaba self-glorification story.

Let me explain…What started out as a 5 star book slowly turned into 3 stars, then 2 stars and at times even 1 star with some eye rolling and snickering to boot. There were moments that it would go back to 3 stars, but those moments were few. By the time I finished I felt relieved and disappointed. That’s not how the reading experience should go, especially with a book that had so much potential! So all this bouncing between stars leaves me in a conundrum of how to rate or even review this book. So I’m just going to break down my issues:

1) Linbaba aka Chuck Norris without the Awesomesauce.
This is how Lin wanted to portray himself:

This is how he actually came off:

The narration is told in first person from Lin’s perspective so a bit of conceit and self-glorification is to be expected. Seriously, who doesn’t think they’re the greatest thing in the world? The problem with Lin was that everything and I mean everything he did somehow would work out. Even when he failed it failed in his favor. Someone would confront him, he would give them the eye, pat the gun in his side pocket, they size each other up, the other man would do the “Indian head waggle” and next thing you know they’re besties riding under the sunset. This happened time and time again. After the 10th time I was seriously ready to throw up. On the occasion that someone did mean him harm he would somehow Chuck Norris his way out of the situation guns, knives and fists ablazin’ teaching those mofos who they were messing with. By the end I just couldn’t take it anymore.


2) Secondary Characters:
Even though I couldn’t stand Lin by the end of the book I did enjoy some of the secondary characters. Prabakar, Lin’s first bestie, was a hoot. He gave the narration just the right kind of levity and humor that it needed. I also enjoyed some of the Mafioso guys that Lin met up with. The one secondary character that I never came to like though was Karla, which was a damn shame considering that she was Lin’s love interest. I just couldn’t take anymore of her “oh I’m so mysterious-I’m going to give you awesome quotes that I work on daily, but it’s going to look like I just pulled them out my ass” persona she had going on. I didn’t understand Lin’s fascination and insta-love thing he had going on with her. Yeah, supposedly she was hot, but that’s lust not love. Lin, apparently, couldn’t tell the difference and despite Karla not giving him any answers he still would of walked on fire for the woman. I found the whole thing frustrating beyond belief because not once during the whole effin’ 900 pages of this damn book this relationship was explained. Not once! *deep breathe*

3) Pseudo-Philosophical Nuggets
This brings me to the pseudo-philosophical nuggets of wannabe wisdom that Lin, Karla and some of the other characters kept beating the reader over the head with. These nuggets or whatever it is you want to call them weren’t nicely spread throughout the narration so that they actually meant something in the greater arc of the story. Oh no my friend! These nuggets showed up around every 5th or so paragraph. Like clockwork. Lin would be in a situation and next thing you know we’re out of the scene and into his little world of philosophy. In the grand scheme of things all the philosophizing came to mean nothing, so if you read this don’t pay attention to it unless you like psychobabble bullshit. That’s not an insult to readers who like that sorta thing. I just happen to not be one of them. I wanted more story. I wanted to know what was going on in the current situation and not constantly bounce from Lin’s zen like thoughts on the situation and then back to the fight or whatever was going on. What pissed me off was that these nuggets o’ crap that Lin and other characters kept giving us amounted to a whole lot o’ nothing in the end. Most of them were just distractions. It was like Lin or in actuality Roberts’ wanted to hear his own voice and impart every piece of wisdom that he could on readers. Right in the middle of a knife fight or someone bleeding to death, Lin would go on some page long speech sprouting something or other about life, relate it to how it was when he was a prisoner (because it always came back to that) and then go back to kicking ass. Really?! One of your besties is on the floor bleeding and you can only think about how some actress you fell in love with years ago caused you to get tortured? Nice going Tiger Blood.

4) Descriptions, writing and other things…
One thing that I absolutely loved was Roberts’ descriptions of India and the Indian people. That is really what made me fall in love with Part 1. I thought he did a phenomenal job of setting up the lush yet gritty background. I loved his observations of the Indian culture. I can’t verify if any of it is correct or if it fits since I have never been to India, but I liked his portrayal. Despite my issues, I actually did enjoy some of Roberts’ writing. He really puts the reader in the setting. However, sometimes it went into purple prose territory particularly when it came to fighting scenes and emotional descriptions. For example, “my body was her chariot and she rode me into the sun"…I’m sorry but that shit made me cringe and the rest of scene was not much better. I’ve read cheap Harlequin novels with better scenes. Some of the dialogue was good and provided food for thought. I liked some of the quotes, but again Roberts would sometimes ruin it with too many similes and metaphors that at times didn’t even make sense. Overall, if he had edited this (taken out the philosophical babble and purple prose) it would’ve been a much better and shorter book.

5) The narrator
I listened to the audio of this since I couldn’t get my hands on a physical copy. The audio I downloaded from has Humphrey Bower as the narrator. I thought he did a fabulous job with the narration. His voice had the right accent, right amount of grit and emotion and just made the story better for me. I did not like his voice for Karla or any of the girls for that matter and Prabakar. Prabakar sounded like King Julien from the Madgascar movie.

You like girls? We got fat girls, pretty girls, ugly girls, hairy girls, scary girls, beautiful girls. Plenty girls to do sexy wit'. Girls, girls everywhere! You let me know! I get for you!

Is it a stereotypical portrayal? Mmm, yeah probably. But it provided a good laugh every time I was just getting ready to kick this story to the side.

So that’s my take on Shantaram and with that I’m going to settle for 2.5 stars. Since GR doesn’t have half stars I’m going to have to go with 2 because there was very little that would make me round it up.